Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mourning Marion Dewar

I felt a jolt this morning. Not because of another California earthquake, but the news of Marion Dewar's passing. Exactly a month ago we got a chance to meet this legendary woman in Calgary.  Despite her colossal architect of bringing Vietnamese refugees to Canada through Project 4000 in 1979 (Photos of the Project 4000), she appeared to be a warm and fun-loving woman.  I could see the joyfulness in her while we were watching fireworks at the Global Fest 2008.  She immersed in our activities with any constraint due to her age, creed or past accomplishments.  She made us feel that we belong.

We all will miss Marion dearly.  In her memory, I would like to reflect on life, death and memory through this excerpt from Samuel Butler's writing (1835–1902), British author.

Memory and forgetfulness are as life and death to one another. To live is to remember and to remember is to live. To die is to forget and to forget is to die. Everything is so much involved in and is so much a process of its opposite that, as it is almost fair to call death a process of life and life a process of death, so it is to call memory a process of forgetting and forgetting a process of remembering. There is never either absolute memory or absolute forgetfulness, absolute life or absolute death. So with light and darkness, heat and cold, you never get either all the light or all the heat out of anything. So with God and the devil; so with everything. Everything is like a door swinging backwards and forwards. Everything has a little of that from which it is most remote and to which it is most opposed and these antitheses serve to explain one another.

Monday, August 18, 2008

O Canada, EH?

Calgary- As we set foot on the Canadian soil in the airport, a band of people in red vests and white Stetson hats held a sign with our names waiting. They poured over along with the Vietnamese Canadian organizers of the screening event to greet us. Surrounded by the volunteer greeters, we were given white Stetson and participated in a White Hat ceremony, which we sworn to extend Calgary's "Western hospitality to all folks and critters."

On this occasion, Bolinao 52 was double-billed with Marion Dewar, Ottawa's former mayor from 1978 to 1985, and a member of the Parliament of Canada from 1986 to 1988, who was instrumental in opening the floodgate for Southeast Asian resettlement in Canada. Marion is the subject of the book, "Gift of Freedom," written by Brian Buckley about her effort in resettling up to 4000 refugees to Ottawa in 1979. The endeavor, named "Project 4000," was a groundbreaking grassroots movement that helped increase the quota in refugee acceptance in Canada. Practically, within days Project 4000 went from a vision to reality with support from the public and community leaders. Buckley wrote in his book: "In less than three weeks, Project 400 had grown from an offhand comment at a private meeting to a full-blown social movement."

Marion Dewar's keynote speech

As significant as her legacy accomplished, Marion is as down-to-earth as she could be. For the few days we spent with her, this woman is full of spirit, easy going. And more significantly, she loves life. Well into her golden years, Marion's eyes lit up when we talked about progressive social ideas. She tried all Vietnamese dishes we introduced. Kept up the pace when we marched our foot expedition in downtown Calgary. Listened to our conversations in Vietnamese even though she didn't understand much of it. Marion is a model for leadership. She took risk not for self aggrandizing purpose or political gain but as an agent for change. In fact, by taking on visionary ideas such as Project 4000, Marion faced great political risk. In our first meeting, she told us that during the implementation of Project 4000, she received an anonymous phone call which the caller threatened to kidnap, tie her up and fed her with Chinese food until she exploded.

During this trip, we met many wonderful people who are dedicated to community empowerment. Tuyet Lam, a tireless organizer who anchored the Bolinao 52 screening event in Calgary. The Son (Antoine) Nguyen and Phuong Anh (Anne Marie) Pham, founders of Calgary Vietnamese Youth Group, provide the leadership for younger Vietnamese Canadians. We came away this event with a sense of accomplishment. Not because we have another screening of Bolinao 52, but this sense of accomplishment comes from witnessing the intergral part of community building in these Calgarians. As we sat down for a celebration meal after the event, there were three parts of the whole presented- past, present and future. In one table there were the pioneers that provided the wisdom. In another tables were the organizing leaders giving guidance and the others belong to the young volunteers who are holding the torch. All that spelled UNITY for the Vietnamese community in Calgary.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Duc Nguyen Interview with Seattle's KBCS

During our trip to Seattle for a fundraiser to benefit Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Irene Noguchi of KBCS's One World Report interviewed me about Bolinao 52.  Here is the link to the audio of the interview broadcast on July 24, 2008.  

Click to listen or download full story (by right-click, save target as)

The Bolinao 52
In 1988, a boat of Vietnamese refugees found themselves stranded on the ocean. A U.S. naval ship refused to pick them up, and without food and water, the refugees began turning to more desperate means to survive. When Duc Nguyen heard the story, he decided to turn this intense journey into a movie. The director screened his documentary of the boat people, called Bolinao 52, in Seattle last week to help raise money for a new building for the International District-based organization Asian Counseling and Referral Service. Irene Noguchi spoke with Nguyen at his hotel on Sunday, and found out why this story is so personal to him. 
Producer: Irene Noguchi 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Letter to Governor Schwarzenegger

As bill AB2064 moves to the governor's desk, the campaign to get this bill passed is focused on the governor himself. Following is letter from me. Using the template circulating by Southeast Asia Resource Action Center and Assemblyman Juan Arambula's office, I inserted some of my personal input. I recommend you to add your personal stories. Here are the addresses you can send the letter to:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capital Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
916-445-2841 Phone
916-558-3160 FAX

District Offices:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Fresno Office
2550 Mariposa Mall #3013
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: 559-445-5295
Fax: 559-445-5328

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Los Angeles Office
300 South Spring Street
Suite 16701
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: 213-897-0322
Fax: 213-897-0319

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Riverside Office
3737 Main Street #201
Riverside, CA 92501
Phone: 951-680-6860
Fax: 951-680-6863

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
San Diego Office
1350 Front Street
Suite 6054
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-525-4641
Fax: 619-525-4640

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
San Francisco Office
455 Golden Gate Avenue
Suite 14000
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415-703-2218
Fax: 415-703-2803

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Washington D.C. Office
134 Hall of the States
444 North Capitol Street NW
Washington D.C. 20001
Phone: 202-624-5270
Fax: 202-624-5280


The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
State Capital Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

I am writing in strong support of Assembly Bill 2064, which would require the State Board of Education to ensure that the history-social science framework and instructional materials include instruction on the Vietnam War, including the “Secret War” in Laos, the role of Southeast Asians in that war, and the refugee/immigrant/new American experience as a result of the war.

Throughout the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, many courageous Southeast Asians including many Hmong, Lao, and Mien people were actively recruited and trained by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to take up arms against the communist regime in support of U.S. national security objectives—this was known as the “Secret War” in Laos. In 1975, after the U.S. pulled out of Southeast Asia, groups who allied with the U.S. faced life-threatening hardships and persecution, forcing them to flee their homes as refugees. Many of these Southeast Asian communities are now residing in countries around the world, and throughout the U.S. where California is home to the largest Southeast Asian American population numbering well over 700,000 (2000 Census). Southeast Asian Americans continue to be integral contributors to the cultural, civic and economic well-being of California and the U.S.

As a Vietnamese American and former refugee from Vietnam, I strongly feel that it is essential to have our voices and stories told in educational setting to allow more understanding of Southeast Asian history. Therefore, I have dedicated several years of my life to make a documentary to preserve the history of the Vietnamese boat people. The documentary, “BOLINAO 52,” has been broadcast on the San Francisco Bay Area PBS stations and international film festivals. We are slating to be broadcast the film on national PBS stations this coming May. We received many praises and gratitude for the significance of this film. It allowed children to understand their parents’ struggle. And parents could relate their stories to children. Here is a comment from a young viewer: “It's very touching even though it's hard to listen to this kind of story. My parents were boat people, and my mom used to tell us stories of how "life" was on the boat, but I think I was too young to really grasp the gravity of the situation.” As a person who worked in the entertainment industry for so many years, I’m sure you realize how important stories are to people’s lives. I’m including the DVD of the film along several news clips and written materials about the documentary. I hope you get a chance to see what it took for some of us to be here. So I urge you to sign this bill into law. It is a right thing to do.

Given that Southeast Asians are one of the fastest growing populations in California, we must craft our schools' curriculum to convey their history, including the events that ultimately forced them to flee their countries as refugees. California students, including American-born Southeast Asians, need to be taught about the sacrifices these groups have made to ensure the security and prosperity of the U.S. Furthermore, research shows that embracing native language, traditions and histories—also known as culturally-based teaching—increases student success and aids in reducing the achievement gap between students of color, including Southeast Asian Americans, and their peers.

The next framework update will begin in 2009, so it is extremely important that you sign this bill when it reaches your desk. Your signature this year will ensure no real costs to California for including this vital part of our history in the 2009 curriculum framework update.

I strongly urge you to sign AB 2064 this year.


Duc Nguyen

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bolinao 52 in Seattle

The first appearance in the Pacific Northwest for Bolinao 52 brought warm reception and strong bonding with the Asian local community.  We were invited by Chris Tran, an event coordinator, to Seattle for a fundraiser to benefit Asian Counseling and Referral Service, www.acrs.org.  ACRS, in its 35th year, was set up to provide services for Asian Pacific community in and around the Seattle area. They provide programs that assist primary low-income, immigrant, refugee, American born Asians and Pacific Islanders.  ACRS helps their clients in various programs to attain the highest level of self-sufficiency in western society, while maintaining their cultural identity.
The screening took place at the Seattle Town Hall, an old converted church in downtown Seattle.  Guests speakers such as Salman Rushdie, Robert Sheer and Cindy Sheehan passed though here.  Without flashy, modern decor and
 stylized architecture, the Town Hall held a mystic feel to it. A VIP reception started the evening with light appetizers and wine.  This event was also to commemorate the new home of ACRS, a 82,000 square feet facility in  the Rainier Valley area. I spotted the small bottles of water and wine bottles with the Bolinao 52 image on them.  Chris Tran, the detail maven, made labels from the poster of the event.  And he had the items imprinted with these labels.  I felt flattered for the details but a bit uneasy about the commercial implication.  
We had approximately 175 attended the screening.  What more significantly was the discussion portion following the film.  Almost everyone stayed and asked in depth, good questions.  The film made an impression on many people in audience which was diverse.  Some were Vietnamese Americans.  A man stood up and said he was a boat person himself and now working on a book about his own experience.  Another woman gave me a book about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome suffered by Vietnam War veterans and explained that the film does draw a correlation.  I felt that this film has something for everyone in the audience.
Me and Elisa Del Rosario, Capital Campaign Director of ACRS 
Pike Place Public Market

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

AB2064 on the Senate floor

This is an email from Assemblyman Juan Arambula's office.

AB 2064 was passed out of the Senate Education Committee and it’s on its way to the Senate Appropriations Committee. However, it is not too early to start working and concentrating our efforts on the Governor’s Office. We would like to invite all of you to attend an in person meeting in our Fresno District office with Sarah Reyes, Chief of Staff to Assembly Member Juan Arambula. The meeting will be from 12:00pm-1:00pm on Tuesday, July 1.

District Office:
2550 Mariposa Mall, Room 5031
Fresno, CA 93721

If you are unable to attend but can join us via conference call, also let me know in your RSVP. I will follow up with you on call-in number and pin information. To RSVP, please contact me, Mariana Corona at 916.319.2031 or by email Mariana.Corona@asm.ca.gov.

Thank You for all your hard work and dedication to this important issue.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Tragic Death in The Philippines

Mac Thi Lieu, one of the last remaining Stateless Vietnamese in the Philippines was found dead in Palawan. Here is a report from the Philippines. I don't know about this woman but will post more information as they come in.

A 50-year-old Vietnamese national was found dead near the Vietnamese Village in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan province, dzBB radio reported Thursday morning.

Radio dzBB's Palawan affiliate reported that the naked body of the victim, initially identified as Mac Thi Lieu, was found at 6 a.m. near a canal along Km 13 of the North National Highway.

The area where the body was found is in Sta. Lourdes village in the city.

Police are trying to determine what caused the death, even as they suspect the victim may have been sexually assaulted. - GMANews.TV

Updated 6/24/08
Ms. Mac Thi Lieu was born in Hai Phong, Viet Nam in 1953. She came to the Philippines in 1989 with 90 other boat people picked up from their sinking boat (they went 9 days without foods and water) by the Canadian supply ship HMSC The Provider. Canadian Ambassador Andre Simard in Manilla gave assurance to the Philippines that they will be taken to Canada by December 92. Canada used UNHCR Comprehensive Plan of Action to disallow their admission to Canada and made away with its promise to those desperate people...

In 2007, three groups in Canada were committed to take Ms Lieu under their care and support, following Minister Finley's opening door to those last Vietnamese in the Philippines.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

History-Social Science Framework Focus Group

The California Department of Education held a focus group meeting in San Jose Friday, May 30, 2008 to discuss the updating of the current Curriculum Framework of History-Social Science teaching in public schools.  There were approximately 12 people in the focus group, most of whom are educators.  

The moderator asked 5 questions on how to improve the current framework.  These questions related to the topics like standardize testing, universal access, professional development, resources.  Overall, the comments from the participants reflect the reality in classrooms which does not meet with the expectation and standard from the current framework.  Many voiced the disinterest from students because the materials do not provide concrete evidence of their realities.  In another word, our world had changed but the history in the textbooks have not. Others suggested the incorporation of technology.  While some raised concerns about the lack of diversity viewpoints.  Almost all agreed that textbook history is very Eurocentric and there is a need to include other perspectives.  Above is a short video bite of the meeting when the participant referred to the ineffectiveness of the current framework in a 21st century classroom.

There will be a focus group in Los Angeles Thursday June 5, 2008 from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Los Angeles County Office of Education
9300 Imperial Highway Los Angeles CA 90242
and Friday June 6 in San Diego
San Diego County Office of Education
2401 Linda Vista Road San Diego CA  92111

For more details: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/cf/index.asp

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Text from the Office of California Assemblyman Member Juan Arambula

Throughout the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, Southeast Asians were courageous allies of the U.S. in the struggle against the spread of communism. For example, many Hmong, Lao, and Mien people were actively recruited and trained by the Central Intelligence Agency to take up arms against the communist regime in support of the United States’ national security objectives in what is known as the "Secret Army" in Laos.

Throughout the course of the Vietnam War and its aftermath, thousands of Southeast Asian men, women, and children from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos died while supporting the United States’ effort to contain the spread of communism.

In 1975, after the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, many Southeast Asians, such as the Hmong, Mien, Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese, faced life-threatening hardship and oppression, forcing them to leave their homes as refugees.

Southeast Asian communities are now spread around the world, including the U.S. where the Hmong, Lao, and Mien have significant communities in California; the largest concentration of Vietnamese are in California and Texas; and large numbers of Cambodian refugees reside in California and Massachusetts.

Southeast Asians should be recognized for their valuable contributions to the cultural, civic, and economic well-being of California. Students need to be taught about the sacrifices groups have made to ensure the security and prosperity of the U.S.

Current law classifies instruction in social sciences to include the role and contributions of men, women and ethnic groups to the development of California and the United States. Instruction also emphasizes on portraying the role of these groups in current society.

AB 78 (Reyes, Chapter 44, Statutes of 2003) encouraged instruction on the ‘‘Secret War’’ in Laos and the role of Southeast Asians in that war. AB 2064 would go further and require the State Board of Education to adopt textbooks and instructional materials to comply with AB 78.

CA has benefited immensely from the cultural richness and patriotism of the Southeast Asian community, including contributions from a growing group of economic, political, and civic leaders.

AB 2064 would require the State Board of Education and the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission to adopt textbooks and instructional materials to include instruction on the Vietnam War.

Specifically, this bill requires textbooks and instruction materials to include the "Secret War" in Laos, the role of Southeast Asians in that war, and the refugee/immigrant/new American experience as a result of the war. This curriculum would be adopted in the next submission cycle.

The curriculum framework development and adoption of instructional materials was last made in 2005. The framework evaluation criteria cycle will begin in 2009 with the next adoption cycle in 2011.

Center for Language Minority Education and Research
Central California Forum on Refugee Affairs
CSU, Sacramento Division of Social Work
Fresno Center for New Americans
Fresno City Councilmember Blong Xiong
Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea
Fresno Unified School District
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Kings Canyon Unified School District
Lao Iu Mien Culture Association
Lao Veterans of America Institute
Law Offices of Paul C. Lo
National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans
Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance
Sacramento Lao Family Community
San Jose City Councilmember, Madison Nguyen
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Stone Soup Fresno
86 Individuals

None on file

California Assembly Bill 2064: Vietnam War Curriculum

For those of us who have been frustrated by the lack of Vietnamese American voices in Vietnam War textbooks and school curriculum, this is an excellent opportunity to get our stories told in California schools. In the next several months the California Board of Education is working to update the History-Social Science Framework for California public schools. Bill AB2064 was introduced by California Assemblyman Arambula (co-authored by Senator Lou Correa of Los Angeles) requiring ""the State Board of Education (SBE) and the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (the Curriculum Commission) to ensure that the history/social science framework, evaluation criteria, and instruction materials include the 'Secret War' in Laos, the role of Southeast Asians in the war, and the refugee/immigrant/new American experience."

As of yesterday, Assembly Bill 2064: Vietnam War Curriculum passed the Assembly Floor 59-14. Now AB 2064 is off to the Senate.

For more information about the bill go to:
Type in bill number AB2064 and click search.
Or contact Assembly member Juan Arambula office:
2550 Mariposa Mall, Room 5031
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: (559) 445-5532
Fax: (559) 445-6006
Mariana Corona at (916) 319-2131 or Sarah Reyes in the district office at (559) 445-5532.
Website: www.assembly.ca.gov/31

In next week or so, there are several public focus group meetings for the History-Social Science Framework in different cities. I encourage you to attend these meetings. Here are the schedule and places.

* May 30, 2008: Santa Clara County Office of Education

* June 5, 2008: Los Angeles County Office of Education

* June 6, 2008: San Diego County Office of Education

Please go here for more information about the focus groups and curriculum frameworks:

I created an online group for our campaign to get our stories told in schools. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ab2064
Please join this group by sending an email to ab2064-subscribe@yahoogroups.com to stay inform, post comments, network and exchange ideas. There are also information you can download about the bill and California Board of Education's curriculum framework.

EDUCATORS!!! Please apply for a Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee (CFCC) position. The CFCC plays a very significant role in the framework adoption process. They bring a voice from an area of expertise while providing input into the initial writing of the draft framework. Join the online group to download the application or send me an email at info@rhimp.com. If you are not in the education field please pass it on to those who would qualify.

Sincerely thank you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Denver, Colorado

Termed as the Napa Valley of Beer, this quaint and eco-friendly town hosted my visit for three days as I and Bolinao 52 attended the NALIP (National Association of Latino Independent Producers) Doing Your Doc Workshop. Performed as a case study for the participants, B52 was observed by approximately 20 people at the Rocky Mountain PBS. Some of the workshop attendees came from out of state. Most engaged in a documentary project of their own, while some came to get an exposure to the trade.

The main draw was Fernanda Rossi, the self-proclaimed Documentary Doctor. A story consultant on story structure and fund-raising trailers, Fernanda assisted filmmakers when they got stuck. She held workshops, panels and consultations regularly throughout the country. She also wrote books and columns for magazines. (documentarydoctor.com)

I took the opportunity to tour Denver on a beautiful Saturday. Haven't been to this city before, I decided to do a tour starting from the Cherry Creek area to downtown on foot. That was about 10 miles. Denver is a city built for bicyclists and outdoor enthusiasts, there were bike trials and city parks all over. Ahh, and the architectures around the city. Magnificient!! Unlike LA where public arts, graffiti and slums are assembled in clumps, Denver carries a blend of an old European town and a modern cosmopolitan. Well, why don't I just put up some photos and let you be a judge yourself.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Comments from Audience

Anh Duc men,
Cam on anh that nhieu da lam phim BOLINAO 52 va chieu tat Cal campus toi hom qua. Toi rat thich phim cua anh. Day la vet thuong lon cua dan toc Viet Nam noi chung va cua nhung thuyen nhan noi rieng ma chua co ai noi len bang nhung phuong tien truyen thong dai chung trong ca mot thoi gian dai vua qua tu sau 1975. Phan vi co the doi voi nhieu nguoi vet thuong nay van con mang mu va ruom mau; phan vi nhieu nan nhan cua minh chua duoc giup do de chua lanh, co tinh chuyen nghiep hon. Co le minh chua co du nhung chuyen vien tam ly co the hieu van hoa, tieng noi va cam nghiem duoc nhung kinh nghiem ma thuyen nhan da di qua nen rat kho de giup thuyen nhan vuot qua nhung kinh nghiem dau thuong nay. Phim cua anh phan nao da noi cho dai chung, hay co the giup cho cac chuyen vien tam ly My hieu phan nao ve kinh nghiem thuyen nhan. Dong thoi toi tin chac la phim nay co the giup nhieu nguoi voi di nhung dau kho va chua lanh chinh ho, nhung kinh nghiem hai hung ma ho da trai qua ma ho danh chon giau bay lau nay.
Mot lan nua cam on anh va tan duong anh vi tam hon cao quy cua anh muon chia se nhung tai nang anh co cho mot viec lam rat huu ich nay.
Chuc anh thanh cong trong phim ke tiep.
Binh an,
Pham Duc Hanh

Dear Duc,
Thank you very much for making BOLINAO 52 and the last night screening at Cal [UC Berkeley]. I appreciate your film. This topic represents a large wound for the Vietnamese in general and more specifically to the Vietnamese boat people refugee experiences that have not been spoken through the public broadcast system during a long awaiting period since 1975. Partly, because these wounds are still fresh, partly because they haven’t been helped to heal properly. Perhaps we don’t have enough professionals who can understand the culture, language communication; and at the same time share the experience as boat people to help the refugees through this painful healing process. Your film mostly has spoken to the general public and to the American psyche in particular to help them understand about the Vietnamese boat people experience. At the same time, I believe this film would help many people with the same wound that have not fully nursed through the difficult time they endured who chose to remain silent for many years. One more time, I would like to thank and congratulate you on using your spirit and talent to share this valuable story to the public.
Wishing you much success on your future endeavor.


Your film was beautifully done. Although it was based on a tragedy, the viewer is left feeling a sense of hope that some good still prevailed and some justice was accomplished in spite of it all. Other documentaries on the same subject left me feeling very bad, but yours was more uplifting. What a strange twist of fate that the poor, starving refugee boy grew up to be a strong, solid American Marine! We never know what life has in store for us, do we?

Kieu Lien

I happened to turn on the tv today and was able to catch part of the documentary, I thought it was really well made.
The authentic pictures and videos, the views from both a refugee and a marine~~
It's very touching even though it's hard to listen to this kind of story. My parents were boat people, and my mom used to tell us stories of how "life" was on the boat, but I think I was too young to really grasp the gravity of the situation.


I watched Bolinao 52 last week, it was an incredibly interesting and moving documentary. No one ever told me their stories about leaving Vietnam so I never had a chance to know how hard it could be. Thank you and congratulations for making that part of Vietnam's history known to others.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Community Outreach Screenings

We began the Community Outreach Campaign for Bolinao 52 on Saturday 4/26/2008 with a screening at San Jose Community College.
This was the first of a screening series in the San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area organized by KQED Education Network and San Jose/Evergreen Community College District. The event was hosted in conjunction with the Smithsonian traveling art exhibit: "Exit Saigon/Enter Little Saigon." Preceded the screening was a reflections and memories open discussion about boat people experience. There were several viewers shared their memories and others talked about their experience with the Vietnamese community members. One particular man told the audience that he is a Vietnam War veteran and he had returned to Vietnam to start an aid program to local Vietnamese. Trang Nguyen, the moderator and event coordinator, told her friend's dramatic escape and and enslavement by the rescuers. Everyone has a story to tell. But not many were willing to take the mic and spoke.
When the screening began, the auditorium was packed with people. The audience included several local politicians and school board members. Most were Vietnamese Americans. I met two couples walking from the parking lot. They heard about the screening because their boss printed out the flyer and told the all the employees at work to come. A significant difference about this crowd was they brought their children. It made the event family oriented. I think that brought out a whole new meaning to the word community engagement.
For me, the most interesting and rewarding experience in filmmaking is interacting with the audience. Most of the attendees brought their children which was a very good sight to see. A mix of good comments and questions were raised but one that stood out most was from a high school student who wanted to suggest to her teacher to give extra credits for watching Bolinao 52.

The following Thursday, May 1, Bolinao 52 returned to U.C. Berkeley, my Alma Mater. We screened the film in Sibley Auditorium, where I took one of my last final exam at Berkeley. The audience size was small but everyone stayed after the film and engaged in a very healthy dicussion with questions and answers. The event was hosted by the Center for Southeast Asia Studies. Many of the questions in this particular screening, which held true to many other screenings as well, involved Minh and Captain Balian? For Minh, why he wasn't allow to come to the U.S.? And what is Balian doing now?

I returned to San Jose City College for another screening for the students on May 7. The audience as well as the campus residents were in a studying mode for the coming final exams. There were some good questions from non-Vietnamese audience members. For an audience that are not familiar with the Vietnam war experience, this film does not provide all the historical context. So it is hard to get the complete picture within an hour. But the draw for them I feel are the characters and the story. The audience sympathized with the main characters. And they stayed for the story. Many dashed out of the auditorium to make the next class. They invested as much time as they could following the story. And that is all I can ask for.

On my way back home, I stopped at a popular Vietnamese shopping center. As I was exiting the restroom, a man called out my name. He told me he watched the film twice on television. Each time he watched , he cried. He also was a boat person and now an artist. He tried to express his boat experience through art but was not able to fully tell the story. I in turn, he said, had successful completed what he wanted to achieve. The man told me: "You entered history." I was surprise by that comment at first. But when I thought about it, he was right. I documented history and then I entered them. Good point!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Screening at Chapman University (4/4/08)

Two law-student volunteers advertised the screening for passer-by.

Audience gathered at the reception before the screening.

Duc signed autograph for audience members.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tung Trinh and Duc Nguyen interview

K. Oanh Ha interviews Bolinao 52 filmmaker Duc Nguyen and boat survivor, Tung Trinh, the woman featured in the film. Duc Nguyen explains why he felt driven, as a boat refugee himself, to tell this story. Tung Trinh boarded the boat that became known as the Bolinao 52 in 1988, with her young five year old son, Lam, never realizing the ordeal that they would both endure. The refugees hoped to make it to the South China Sea to be picked up by passing ships. Only two days out, the engine died, and soon food and water ran out and over half of the 110 refugees perished from the hunger, thirst and exposure. Their boat drifted for thirty-seven days before the Pilipino fisherman from the town of Bolinao rescued the refugees. Tung Trinh recounts a remarkable story of survival and the power of the human spirit.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Speaking to Oakland High

Abe Ferrer of Visual Communications with Duc Nguyen and Chris Woon (Among B-Boys)

Quite a week I had. Started on Sunday, I attended the annual APA filmmakers brunch hosted by CAAM (Center for Asian American Media) in Japan Town, San Francisco.
It was a really wonderful event for APA filmmakers in the Bay Area. We exchanged our battle stories, concerns, love, passion and how to get the next round of funding. There were the veterans like Loni Ding, Spencer Nakasako, Felicia Lowe. And then there were the younger generation filmmakers like Chris Woon, Marissa Aroy, Leo S. Chiang. We chatted, drank coffee while the CAAM staff sobered up for another busy day of the 26th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.

APA Filmmakers Summit with ITVS and CAAM at Kabuki Hotel.

We then moved on to a Summit with ITVS (Independent Television Service) and CAAM across the block at the Kabuki Hotel. This meeting was organized by ITVS in conjunction with CAAM to get feedbacks from Asian Pacific filmmaking community mostly in the Bay Area. There were the veterans like Stephen
Okazaki, Christine Choy, Deann Borshay Liem, Loni Ding, Felicia Lowe and the sprinkle of new faces like Karin Chien (The Motel producer) and others like me. We engaged in a (let's say) healthy discussion about the challenges and changing landscape of independent filmmaking. I will save the details for a separate blog later. Overall, I think we got some points across and the hosts were there to listen.

The following few days brought some comforting moments as I began to do outreach and engagement campaigning for B52. On weds. we did a shoot in San Jose with KTEH for the World Premiere promo on April 30. KTEH and CAAM flew chi Tung, the Bolinao 52 survivor in the film to San Jose for the shoot. I met her and the KTEH crew at the boat people museum in Kelly Park. Once I got there the crew was still setting up lights and checking sound. The museum housed a collection of Vietnamese refugees memorabilia ranging from South Vietnamese military medals to boat people photos and books on Vietnam War. I've heard about the museum but never got a chance to visit. Before the interview with KQED's journalist Oanh Ha, I met with Bac Loc, the director of the museum. A gracious man with such charm, Bac Loc put a lot of effort into the museum and he did it without a large operating budget. Somehow, he was able to maintain his task of preserving the old memories for history sake. I could identify with that.
Tung Trinh, Bolinao 52 survivor and me in front of a painting of boat people escape routes at the San Jose Boat People Museum.

The following day, I went to Oakland High School to speak to a group of 10 graders. The class was a world culture class and because the teacher Tara saw Bolinao 52 at the Wine Country Film Festival last year. She got a copy of the film and began showing her students the film. Tara wanted to show a different perspective than the within the bow point-of-view of the Vietnam War. It has been a long time since I been to a high school. The activities that went on in the hall was as hectic as the traffic on the freeway. Boys and girls darted through the hall like buzzing bees socializing, making plans, catching up with gossips, teasing and flirting with each others. Some more serious students headed straight to their next destinations. I spoke to 4 classes between 8:15am and 2:00pm about any issues that concerned them. I would say it was an interesting and challenging experience having discussion with 10 graders. They are at an age where they began to develop some critical thinking skills. And at the same time they still retained their juvenile tendencies. We went to many topics that I don't normally discussed with public audience. And we even tried some interactivities. I gathered all students in one class and placed them next to each other in the middle of the room. The idea was to simulate an experience of being in close quarter for a period of time. We only did 5 minutes and there were complaints about how their neighbors smell.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

STATELESS Vietnamese arrived in Canada (Vietnamese) Thông cáo báo chí

Liên Hội Người Việt Canada
Vietnamese Canadian Federation
Fédération vietnamienne du Canada
249 Rochester Street Ottawa, ON; K1R 7M9 CANADA
Tel.: (613) 230-8282; Fax: (613) 230-8281; Email: vietfederation@bellnet.ca
Website: www.vietfederation.ca

Chương trình Tới bờ tự do

Thông cáo báo chí

Ba trong số 100 gia đình người Việt tị nạn sống bơ vơ
tại Phi Luật Tân trong gần 20 năm tới Calgary và Vancouver

Ba gia đình người Việt tị nạn sẽ tới Canada để bắt đầu cuộc sống mới sau gần 20 năm sống trong tình trạng bơ vơ tại Phi Luật Tân: một gia đình đến Calgary ngày 6 tháng 3, và hai gia đình đến Vancouver ngày 7 tháng 3.

Sau khi chiến tranh Việt Nam chấm dứt vào năm 1975, khoảng một triệu rưởi người Việt đã chạy trốn chế độ Cộng Sản mới áp đặt lên miền Nam Việt Nam. Phần lớn họ vượt biên bằng đường biển, trên những chiếc thuyền bé nhỏ, mỏng manh. Có tới nửa triệu người đã bỏ mình trên biển cả, vì đói khát, chết đuối vì phong ba, bão táp, hoặc bị hải tặc thảm sát. Trong số những người thoát nạn, có gần 100 gia đình bị kẹt lại tại Phi Luật Tân vì không một quốc gia nào nhận họ.

Ngày 10 tháng 5, 2007, sau 5 năm làm việc với Luật Sư Trịnh Hội, một người Úc gốc Việt đã từng tranh đấu cho người tị nạn, và tổ chức SOS VietPhi, Liên Hội Người Việt Canada đã được chính phủ Canada chấp thuận một thể thức đặc biệt, theo đó chính phủ sẽ giành mọi sự dễ dãi trong việc xét đơn xin định cư của người Việt tại Phi Luật Tân trên căn bản nhân đạo và bác áì. Những người không hội đủ tiêu chuẩn dưới dạng “Gia đình” hoặc “Ngành nghề chuyên môn” sẽ được cứu xét trên căn bản này.

Đáp ứng thể thức đặc biệt này của chính phủ, Liên Hội Người Việt Canada đã thành lập chương trình Tới bờ tự do và cộng tác với tổ chức VOICE (Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment), một tổ chức từ thiện, bất vụ lợi có văn phòng tại Hoa Thịnh Đốn và Manila, để giúp các đồng bào trong việc nộp đơn và định cư tại Canada.

Cho tới nay, cộng đồng người Việt tại Canada, Hoa Kỳ và Úc đã đóng góp được trên nửa triệu Gia kim cho chương trình “Tới bờ tự do”, và 41 nhóm yểm trợ cộng đồng đã được thành lập để giúp các đồng bào định cư tại Canada. Hiện nay, có 24 gia đình hoặc cá nhân đã được cấp chiếu khán nhập cảnh, và ba gia đình đầu tiên sẽ đến Canada tuần này: một gia đình được thân nhân ở Calgary bảo trợ và hai gia đình được chùa Hoa Nghiêm ở Vancouver trợ giúp.

Ông Ed Komarniki, Phụ tá Liên lạc Quốc Hội của bà Diane Finley, Bộ Trưởng Di Trú và Công Dân Vụ, sẽ thay mặt bà Bộ Trưởng chào mừng hai gia đình tị nạn đến Vancouver.

Bà Finley tuyên bố: “Chính phủ và Thủ Tướng Canada hỗ trợ cộng đồng người Việt tại Canada. Chúng tôi rất vui mừng chào đón các gia đình người Việt này tới xứ sở chúng tôi. Chúng tôi cũng có lời khen ngợi Liên Hội Người Việt Canada đã bỏ công sức tổ chức các nhóm yểm trợ trên toàn cõi Canada.”

Thay mặt cộng đồng người Việt tại Canada và các nơi khác, Liên Hội Người Việt Canada thành thật tri ơn tất cả các quý vị đã giúp đồng bào tị nạn tới Canada định cư, đặc biệt là bà Bộ Trưởng Finley, quý vị dân biểu thành viên của Ủy Ban Thường Trực Quốc Hội khóa trước và khoá hiện tại, và tất cả các quý vị mạnh thường quân đã đóng góp rộng rãi cho chương trình Tới bờ tự do.


Ngày phổ biến: 6 tháng 3, 2008
Lê Duy Cấn
Điều Hợp Trưởng, chương trình Tới bờ tự do
Liên Hội Người Việt Canada
Đ.t. (613) 230-8282

STATELESS Vietnamese arrived in Canada (English)

Liên Hội Người Việt Canada
Vietnamese Canadian Federation
Fédération vietnamienne du Canada
249 Rochester Street Ottawa, ON; K1R 7M9 CANADA
Tel.: (613) 230-8282; Fax: (613) 230-8281; Email: vietfederation@bellnet.ca
Website: www.vietfederation.ca

Project Freedom at Last


First three of 100 Vietnamese refugee families stranded in the Philippines for almost 20 years arriving in Calgary and Vancouver

Three Vietnamese refugee families will finally arrive in Canada to begin their new lives after being stranded in the Philippines for almost 20 years: one family in Calgary on March 6, and two families in Vancouver on March 7.

Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, an estimated million and a half people fled the newly established Communist regime in Vietnam, mostly by the sea, in small leaky boats, to neighbouring countries. About half a million of these people never made it to the shore of freedom, having perished at sea, due to starvation or drowning in the rough, treacherous South China Sea, or having been killed by pirates. Among those lucky enough to survive this ordeal, about one hundred families remain stranded in the Philippines because no country wanted to accept them.

On May 10, 2007, after 5 years of working with lawyer Hoi Trinh, a Vietnamese-Australian refugee rights advocate, and the SOS VietPhi Refugee Support Group, the Vietnamese Canadian Federation succeeded in obtaining a special arrangement with the federal government, whereby the government would facilitate the immigration of these people based on humanitarian and compassionate consideration. Those who do not qualify for admission to Canada under either the Family Class or the Federal Skilled Worker Class would be assessed based on this consideration.

Following this arrangement, the Vietnamese Canadian Federation established Project Freedom at Last and worked with VOICE (Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment), a non-profit and charitable organization with offices in Washington, D.C., and Manila, and other Vietnamese - Canadian organizations, to assist these refugees with their application process and their resettlement in Canada.

So far, over $500,000 has been raised in Canada, the U.S., and Australia, and 41 community supported groups formed across the country to help these refugees rebuild their lives. At present, 24 families and individuals have been issued entry visas and three first families will arrive this week: one, sponsored by their relatives, will resettle in Calgary and the other two supported by the Hoa Nghiem Buddhist Temple in Vancouver.

Mr. Ed Komarniki, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, will be on hand to greet the two families arriving inVancouver, on behalf of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Diane Finley.

“Our government and our Prime Minister support the Vietnamese community in Canada and we are pleased to welcome these Vietnamese families to our country,” said Minister Finley. “We would also like to commend the Vietnamese Canadian Federation for their efforts to organize community support across Canada.”

On behalf of the Vietnamese community in Canada and elsewhere, the Vietnamese Canadian Federation wishes to thank all those who have helped make this happen. Special thanks are extended to Minister Finley, Members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration under the current and previous Parliaments for their continuing support, and to all those who have made generous financial contributions to Project Freedom at Last.


For immediate release: March 6, 2008
Can D. Le
General Coordinator, Project Freedom at Last
Vietnamese Canadian Federation
Tel. (613) 230-8282